Thursday, January 9, 2014

Stocks Finish Flat to Lower; Alcoa, Sears Roil Markets After-Hours

2014 is not starting out the way 2013 ended. Stocks spent most of the day in the red, with only the S&P finishing with a fractional gain of 0.64 points.

Focus was on initial unemployment claims prior to the opening bell, as those seeking unemployment benefits fell 15,000 last week to a seasonally adjusted 330,000, but the numbers failed to ignite any fire under stocks. Investors are still largely on the sidelines, awaiting Friday's non-farm payroll report for December from the BLS.

Stocks languished throughout the sluggish session, though after the close a number of important earnings reports generated a good deal of fear.

Alcoa (AA), traditionally the first company to report, said per share earnings for the fourth quarter were below estimates of .06 per share, coming in at .04 after extraordinary items, including $384 million to settle allegations that one of its units bribed members of Bahrain’s royal family and officials at a state-owned company to win business in 2004. The company, outside of arcane and often absurd bookkeeping rules, experienced a massive loss.

The net loss was $2.34 billion, or $2.19 a share, compared with net income of $242 million, or 21 cents, a year earlier, New York-based Alcoa said today in a statement. Profit excluding a settlement in a bribery case and other one-time items was 4 cents a share, trailing the 6-cent average of 16 estimates compiled by Bloomberg. Sales declined to $5.59 billion from $5.9 billion.

Shares of the world's largest aluminum manufacturer were down nearly four percent in after-hours trading.

Sears Holdings (SHLD), operators of Sears and K-Mart stores, was equally disappointing, maybe moreso, when it reported same-store sales declines of 7.4% during the quarter ended January 6. Amid the depressing holiday season miss, the company projected losses of between $2.35 and $3.39 for the quarter ending Feb. 1.

Shares of Sears Holdings were down more then 14% after-hours.

If those economic stories weren't enough to turn one's stomach, New Jersey governor and leading 2016 Republican presidential candidate, Chris Chistie, proved today that he is not only an overbearing, obnoxious, obese bully, but a terrible liar and scapegoater, capable of throwing even his highest-ranking administrators under any fast-approaching bus, as well.

DOW 16,444.76, -17.98 (-0.11%)
NASDAQ 4,156.19, -9.42 (-0.23%)
S&P 1,838.13, +0.64 (+0.03%)
10-Yr Note 97.87, +0.57 (+0.59%) Yield: 2.96%
NASDAQ Volume 2.10 Bil
NYSE Volume 3.56 Bil
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ Advance - Decline: 2878-2807
Combined NYSE & NASDAQ New highs - New lows: 415-42
WTI crude oil: 92.00. -0.33
Gold: 1,229.40, +3.90
Silver: 19.68, +0.144
Corn: 412.00, -5.00

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